Man who shot TRM graduate will get new trial

Published 7:41 am Saturday, January 4, 2014

The Jay, Fla., man who shot and killed T.R. Miller graduate GeTyron “Gus” Benjamin during a party in 2010 will get a new trial, a Florida appeals court ruled Friday.

Jury instructions in the trial of Robert Franklin Floyd were conflicting, the court ruled. Floyd had been sentenced to 30 years in prison in July 2011.

Floyd’s attorneys argued at trial that he used self-defense under the state’s controversial Stand Your Ground law when he shot at the car in which Benjamin was riding with three other Brewton residents as it drove away from Floyd’s house in Jay. 

Instructions to the jury stated that “if the defendant was not engaged in any unlawful activity and was attached in any place where he had the right to be, he had no duty to retreat” under the Stand Your Ground law. 

But the instructions also stated use of force was not justifiable if Floyd “had exhausted every reasonable means to escape the danger other than using deadly force.”

“In effect, the trial court instructed the jurors that Floyd both did and did not have a duty to retreat,” the appeals court opinion states. “Floyd’s only defense at trial was that he had used deadly force to defend himself and others. The conflicting jury instructions negated each other in their effect, and therefore negated their possible application to Floyd’s only defense.”

Floyd’s convictions were reversed and his sentences revoked, with a new trial ordered. No date is set for a new trial.

In the February 2010 incident, the four Brewton residents — including Benjamin — had gotten into an argument with Floyd after they arrived at the party.

Testimony at the trial indicated one of the Brewton teens had shown off a pistol during the fight. After the argument, the Brewton group left the party.

Floyd said he heard gunfire coming from the car, then got a rifle and shot at the car as it was driving away; Benjamin was hit with one of the gunshot and was driven in the vehicle to D.W. McMillan Hospital in Brewton, where he was pronounced dead.

Read the appeals court decision below: